Nuo Opera



Nuo Opera
2 months
Folk culture research and design
Design research
Concept art
Visual art design
Graphic design
Folk culture research

Nuo opera or Nuo drama is one of the most popular folk operas in southern China Characterized by its outstanding features such as ferocious masks, unique dresses and adornments, the strange language used in performance, and mysterious scenes.

Nuo opera has been selected as one of the non-material cultural legacies of China. The opera is a religious performance intrinsic to the culture of Nuoism, a type of Chinese folk religion.

The purpose of Nuo opera is to drive away devils, disease and evil influences, and also to petition for blessings from the gods. Singing and dancing are included in Nuo opera, and performers wear costumes and masks.

Nuo Opera Performance in Tunpu, Anshun City, Guizhou Province
Village-based traditions, once practiced by close-living families and neighbors, are disappearing in an increasingly urban China. In China, ‘Once the Villages Are Gone, the Culture Is Gone.’ I want to call out everyone in our daily life to pay attention to the protection of intangible cultural heritage and let more people know about Nuo opera.
Face mask of NUO Opera


Nuo opera is not as popular as other types of traditional opera like Peking opera. So, I couldn’t find much information when I was walking through the downtown of a modern city. Later on, I decided to fly to city Guizhou, the center of Nuo drama in southwestern China, due to its long Nuo opera history and abundant repertoire. The only two occasions for the performance of Nuo opera are at the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) and in the middle of the 7th lunar month, the time of the rice harvest. People hope the Nuo opera can drive away bad luck and bring a good harvest.
During the research in Guizhou, I collected a great amount of Nuo Opera data and information. One thing that grasped my attention the most is the dancer’s face mask. The moment a dancer puts on his mask, he will not speak or act casually since putting on a mask means the spirit is on him already.
Face mask of NUO Opera
“Tongshan Primary School, Pingzhai, Longtang Town, Kaili City, Guizhou Province Primary school students and their drawings
I went to Tongshan Primary School in Pingzhai and asked the pupils to fill in the Nuoxi masks draft. As they are the locals who grow up with this culture, I believe those pupils have a better and unique understanding of the Nuo Opera. Because of this engagement, I found some unusual brilliant points that inspired my design spirit and eventually exceeded my initial expectations, facilitating and offering art workshops for needy kids who lacked high-level education and enough parents’ financial support.
I told them about the importance of protecting their history and cultural heritage by learning how to illustrate and design the Nuoxi mask’s patterns. Thus, I also merged the beauty of childlike designs by reflecting what I learned from the culture into my final work.
Survey color chart
I saw many exquisite Nuo opera masks. Different roles require different masks to reveal the characters, through their changing facial features and decorations. Based on the Nuo opera mask, I redesigned the facial expression after analyzing the facial relationship on each face mask. Then I made the colour data analysis on the colouring draft from children. Lastly, I combined the colour and random selection of facial features.


I’m inspired by some ancient Nuo Opera logo designs.
ancient silhouette
design derived from ancient silhouette
Based on the research, each Nuo opera has a different expression, which reflects the tradition of Nuoism. Similar to today’s emojis, each facial expression of Nuo opera is unique, which represents emotions like joy and sorrow.
五官分析绘制图 1
design analysis for eyes
五官分析绘制图2 1
design analysis for mouses
The ancients wore masks to magnify emotions of the role; modern people prefer to use a symbol to express. By redesigning Nuo expressions, I hope the Nuo emoticon can both inherit the gist of Nuo opera and incorporate simpleness and conciseness of modern expression.
sketch and analysis
Accessory Design
Pencil case: 80 * 178 mm

Corkscrew: 58 mm in diameter
T – shirt Black/White

Digital Tools

More Projects

Categories: Graphic Design